Readability – Nitpicker’s heaven, or is Yoast losing it?


 

 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam CO2I’m always fascinated by the theory of readability, the pedants, and the total lack of interest in actual content requirements. Yoast is no exception. Check out this, based on my “future of books” blog:

  1. Bad SEO score2 of the subheadings are followed by more than the recommended maximum of 300 words. Try to insert additional subheadings.
  2. Mark this result in the text Bad SEO score The text contains 3 consecutive sentences starting with the same word. Try to mix things up!
  3. Mark this result in the text OK SEO score 29% of the sentences contain a transition wordor phrase, which is less than the recommended minimum of 30%.
  4. Mark this result in the text OK SEO score5% of the sentences contain passive voice, which is more than the recommended maximum of 10%. Try to use their active counterparts.
  5. Good SEO score The copy scores 64.6 in the Flesch Reading Easetest, which is considered ok to read.
  6. Good SEO score None of the paragraphs are too long, which is great.
  7. Mark this result in the text Good SEO score3% of the sentences contain more than 20 words, which is less than or equal to the recommended maximum of 25%.

Note the minute deviations like 29% instead of 30%. No bandwidths. Not also the emphasis on “too long”, etc.

  1. …Yet the overall SEO score was “good”.
  2. 3 sentences on the same subject starting with the same word? The subject was “books”, so the subheads included books.
  3. A transition word or phrase: Transition words include “and”, “probably” and “maybe”…. So bloody what? These things are used in syntax, too. Or is syntax another subject never to be mentioned?
  4. Passive voice: Did an entire blog which scored 100% passive voice, and 98% readability. Tell you anything, pedants? Reading is about readability.
  5. Readability on Flesch is 64% but the overall rating is bad?

Do style guides have a clue?

In so many words, no. They’re a nitpicker’s heaven. The people who have nothing to do with generating content can sit there with a readout like this and pronounce judgement.

Passive voice is also usually narrative, the required, and largely unavoidable, story telling information between quotes, active voice, etc. Narrative, strangely, occurs in scientific papers, news articles, and reportage of anything. It even occurs in conversations to tell people what the bloody subject of the story is. No narrative? Gonna be some fabulous bit of communication, eh?

 

This is “narrative”, according to Google:

narrative
ˈnarətɪv/
noun
  1. 1.
    a spoken or written account of connected events; a story.
    “a gripping narrative”
    synonyms: accountstorytalechroniclehistorydescriptionrecordportrayalsketchportraitstatementreportrehearsalrecitalrendering

    “a chronological narrative of Stark’s life”
    adjective 
  1. 1.
    in the form of or concerned with narration.
    “a narrative poem”

I won’t even begin to get in to the technical issues. Some content is written for timing, for perspective, contrast, or simply to add poise to a sentence. Written content isn’t the same thing as a bloody shopping list, clowns.

There are supposed to be a few things in any decent text:

  • Expression
  • Emphasis
  • Modes of speech
  • Syntax
  • Context

Without them, you’ve GOT a shopping list:

  • Now’s the winter of our discontent.
  • Made glorious spring.
  • 500g butter
  • Bread
  • Doritos

Try getting that delivered – Or getting someone to read it. Point made?

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam, Paul Wallis books